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tv   World War II POW Concentration Camp Escapes Rescues  CSPAN  February 16, 2020 10:30pm-11:51pm EST

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kathy rogers, congressman will heard, and ellen weintraub. watch "the community -- communicators" monday night on c-span2. next, from the kansas city public library, co-authors david mills and kill westra talk about their book "great wartime escapes and rescues." in an illustrated talk, they focus on world war ii prisons ers of war and concentration camps. >> good evening. i'm with the libraries public affairs staff. thanks so much for joining us tonight. thanks to the u.s. army command and general staff. one of our longest, best, one of our favorite programming partners for yet another of what i know will be a compelling presentation.
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these guys are money, as many of you know. we are so fortunate and privileged to be associated with them. tonight, we welcome our two guests. westra,lls, and kayla of the minnesota west community and technical college, the co-authors of "great wartime escapes and rescues." i'll start by saying they had me in grade school. i was a fourth-grader when hollywood released "the great escape," starring steve mcqueen and james garner, richard. and borough, and charles bronson, among others. it quickly became a tv staple all of the guys in my class fell
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-- in martinsburg, missouri fell in love with it. we played it out in recess. all of us wanted to be mcqueen. i think i ended up with the attenborough role. get executed at the end of the movie. of course, mcqueen survives. what we didn't realize then and what we probably didn't care about was that the movie was based on a true story, the escape of 76 allied soldiers and in 1944.from germany' the film pretty much gave us the real-life tragic ending to that story. only three of those men who escaped state escaped. two norwegian pilots, another pilot from the netherlands, no
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americans. werenly set -- other 73 killed or captured. more than two thirds of them were executed. the fact is, escaping is hard and it wasn't often tried during world war ii in particular and when it was, it often didn't succeed. when it did, it really was an inspiration and it was often hollywood stuff. book detailsla's during agents in tehran the 1979 hostage crisis, which was the basis for the best "argo."oscar-winner this is the third time david has spoken here at the library. last was a little over a year ago and we talked about the power pairing between dwight eisenhower and george marshall. kayla, who is a former kansas city resident, is here from
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where she now lives in minnesota, where she is the dean of institutional effectiveness and liberal arts at the minnesota west community and technical college. thanks so much for making the trip. please join me in welcoming both of them. westra.lls and kayla [applause] david: good evening, everybody and thanks for coming out. looks like the weather is cooperating. last year, we were supposed to have a couple different presentations that got canceled because of the weather, so it is great to see every body. thanks for coming out. i'm dave mills and this is my good friend kayla westra. we have been friends for about 10 years. we work together at minnesota
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west community college until a few years ago when i took a position down here, but about two years ago, kayla and i decided to write this book about p.o.w. escapes and rescues. many of you probably remember the man who was instrumental in orchestrating many of the discussions and talk about world war ii down here, so when i told him about our book, he asked us to come and talk about a number of these episodes. start off talking about the history of prisoners and their treatments, and then we will talk about why it is so hard to make a successful escape. then, we will talk about our specific episodes of prisoners and the escape attempts they made, so we have a variety of stories for you tonight.
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we will talk about the great escape in a little more detail, we will talk about a prison camp in the philippines where the entire prison camp was rescued, and then we will talk about a number of individual escapes that included american, french, german, and british officers. i hope you enjoy it. in 2004 when tom brokaw coined the phrase the greatest generation, he was talking about orse who grew up in war to stayed at home and labored for the effort in world war ii, and it was a time when we still had a number of those people in our midst. fewer and fewer of that generation, we are losing that generation, and this is my dad. my dad has gotten such a kick
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out of that. he had a great sense of humor, but my dad was part of the greatest generation and served in world war ii, as well. as we talk about these escapes and rescues, we focus today on a couple of episodes. when we were working on this book, i purposely did not watch the movies. i am a movie buff and know a lot of movies, but i did not track down the movies on these because as entertaining as they are, they are not always aligned with history, as we know. i'm not anti-movie. i use movies and him in english teacher by trade so i use movies students excited about history, but we must look beyond what the movie tells us to get the real story because i can tell you from the research we did that there is little glamour in many of these escapes and rescues, and very little victory against all odds, but it is important that we tell the stories and retelling them is crippled -- critical to remembering people and their efforts and the untold stories, especially for those that did not get out.
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i'm going to take you back to my favorite time. , which is the middle -- time period, which is the middle ages. -- younderstandable should understand where the concept came from. in the middle ages, there were a few prisoners of four, mostly because unless you were noble, you weren't worth a whole lot. if you were a noble, you might be ransomed to your family, but a commoner, they didn't have much use for you so they would kill you off or an slave you were massacred you. there wasn't much point in keeping you around. then the french wars in the 14th century and changes in tactics and weaponry, army competition -- composition changed. armies became larger and more lethal and common soldiers became more important because they were fighting with pikes, longbows, and eventually rifles. at this point, a commoner could actually killing noble so the value of the common soldier increased. nobles refined the rules of
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engagement a little more. the 16th and 17th centuries, armies numbered in the thousands so if you can imagine taking care of prisoners of war on that scale, it became more difficult. by the mid 18th century, we went from small professional armies to more national armies and soldiers that fought for ideology, an idea. it became more difficult to get men to switch sides which was common in the middle ages. fight for us and we will not kill you was a pretty strong argument. more men were needed if you were keeping these prisoners of war, so it became a time where they had to write down rules of engagement and how things were going to be handled. been used for centuries. prisoner of war became a legal status only in 1899. the provision for treatment was for humane treatment and specified what prisoners could do. the agreement required each
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prisoner to reveal name and rank. responsibility for the protection of prisoners was placed on the leaders of the powers that had captured them. torture was outlawed to extract information, but the communist forces notoriously violated that in korea. david: you are going to go ahead and advance my slide for me and point out that i was supposed to do that first. thanks. so escape. it sounds like it ought to be a no-brainer. it sounds like everybody would want to try and escape, but there are a number of problems if youu have to consider are going to try and escape from
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a prison. the first is first and foremost, you know you can be shot upon escape or upon recapture. happened, sothing it was not a decision to be taken lightly. he once a prisoner decided or she was going to try and escape, there are a number of questions that have to be answered. how aret question is, you going to get out of prison, right? you've got a lot of really smart people who put together a prison in order to keep you inside of have somewill considerations to think about like guards and dogs and sense andd wire searchlights and watchtowers and landmines. a number of obstacles designed to keep you in. let's assume you get out of the prison. what is the next question you probably need to ask yourself? how are you going to travel and where are you going to go?
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walking takes a lot of time and a lot of energy, and prisoners would probably want to avoid the public where they could attract suspicion and maybe the attention of the police. a prisoner didn't have money to purchase a ticket on an airplane or trainer ship or any other kind of mode of transportation. and they probably didn't speak the local language, so a number to beblems needed overcome. the third major issue is one of logistics. clothes prisoners, the they would be wearing were out of the ordinary. most soldiers are captured in ofir uniforms and uniforms enemy personnel down the street will attract the wrong kind of attention, so what about identification papers that europedy, at least in was required to carry at this time.
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how would you eat? you have no money come you want to avoid the local population, you can't walk into the local enny's and order up some grub. the fourth major issue in germany or japan is the problem of fitting in. this is particularly obvious with an american in the pacific theater where the japanese would have control of the philippines and other islands and other territories, but even in germany -- i lived in germany and russia for a number of years, and nobody ever mistook me for a local. i don't know how they knew i was an american, but they always did . the last question is one of physical limitations. lot ofcan see, a whole these guys are not treated particularly well, so the idea of getting out of a prison camp and putting some distance between themselves and the guards who would probably be looking for them rather quickly
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raises some obvious problems. issuesre a number of that you have got to think through before you can even consider the idea of escape. one of the things you might want to do is get some help in your escape efforts and for these reasons, every escapee had the help of other prisoners. large prison camps would have escaped committees. the are usually made up of highest ranking folks in the prison camps themselves and if you were a prisoner and you had an idea that you were going to escape from prison, you would need to go to the escape committee and present your plan, so remember, this is a military organization. the idea of hierarchy is one that is embraced. go to have a plan, you the committee, you brief the escape committee on your plan, and the committee can approve it or disapprove it.
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one of the reasons the escape committee might disapprove of , you can'tsay no escape in that manner at that time in the way you have described. you need to put your plans on the back burner. one of the reasons that might be the case is you might interfere with another escape plan already in the works, so you need to coordinate that. the last thing you would want is to mess up one plan because you have stumbled into something. another reason the escape might be disapproved is that it had little chance of success. the escape committee might look at this idea and say, all you're going to do is bring a lot of scrutiny and attention to the prisoners and the idea of escaping, which may institute new rules and regulations that will make it harder for everyone else. you actually did need to have some semblance or chance of success in getting out. if the committee approved of your escape plan, that meant the
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entire committee and most likely a whole lot of folks inside the prison itself were going to help you out and assist. there is not a lot that folks could do, but maybe a distraction to draw attention away from whatever area you were going to be focused on getting out of the prison. they're also used to be a number of civilian occupations that a prisoner in their escape. it used to be there were whole lot of folks who were printers and new ink and were able to forge identification papers. artists were also very good at helping with more intricate details of faking it into vacation papers. -- identification papers. tailors would be able to take your uniform and make it more like a civilian suit.
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then an army uniform, especially if it was dyed. bribing guards is another thing that the prison system would do. everybody would be checking, so how vulnerable is this new guard? can i bribe him? can i buy some things from him? how amenable is this person to making a trade of some sort? oftentimes, the only way you could get critical equipment like a typewriter or a camera to take pictures of people to make these fake id papers was to bribe guards. lots of folks did not even know where they were in the prison camp system. information could be had from guards. you could also bribe guards to get money. so prisoners, once they escaped, would have some currency. maybe if they spoke the language well enough, they could try to purchase a ticket and that sort of thing. on one hand, escape is pretty
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difficult, but you can try to leverage the knowledge and the expertise of folks within the prison, a lot of times you had a pretty good shot of at least getting a way a little bit -- getting away a little bit. with that, i will advance the slide. turn it back over to kayla. kayla: a little bit of my thunder was stolen. but i get to talk about the great escape today. a number of you know the story, but for those of you who don't, dave was talking about the logistics of getting out of the camp. men still tried to escape, even with all of those issues they had. prisoners were notorious for trying to escape their german captors. they put the worst of the presence -- they put those prisoners in the worst of camps. that camp primarily held air force personnel.
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it was located in poland about 100 miles southeast of berlin. you can see the image on the left side for you. the barracks were built off of the ground, tunneling efforts were pretty difficult. there was also some sand underneath the topsoil. it had a distinct golden color so as they were trying to tunnel, they had to put that sand somewhere. they would often put it in socks and try to walk around and get rid of it, but when it is gold and on top, it is gnosis -- noticeable. the tunnels had to be extremely long. the barracks were back from the fence quite a ways. in order to tunnel, they had to hide what they were working on. they actually -- a little humorous, they named their three harrys the tom, dick and tunnels. the tom was built in the dark corner of the barracks. the harry was under the stove, and the other was in a drain.
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each tunnel went straight down for about 40 feet. this enabled them to avoid microphones in place so they could hear the tunneling. and the sandy soil they talk about. eventually they ran out of places to put all of that sand. so they decided to sacrifice one of the tunnels. they would fill that with sand and shortly after that, the tunnel.found the tom two tunnels were compromised. they began working on the last tunnel with some renewed enthusiasm. they had heard they would be shipped to a more secure camp because of some of their shenanigans. they wanted to get this moving and get out as soon as they could. they finished mid-march, it took them about 15 months to complete one of the tunnels. they had to wait for a moonless night in order to get out. the plan was 40 feet down, 300 past the fence, 28 out past the fence and into the woods. the first ones out were the ones who spoke german. probably had escaped before.
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a little bit more confident. -- confidence they could do that. then they had a lottery for the next 100. they thought they could get 200 men out in a single night. at 10:30 that night, the first man made it through the tunnel and found the time of cleared the fence, but it didn't make it to the woods. this was something they had not accounted for. the tunnel's exit could be seen from the guard tower. it greatly slowed down the process of getting the men out. they thought they would be able to send out 16 hour and were only able to do about 10. at midnight -- they started at 10:30 -- the air raid sirens went off. that cut the power. the pesky americans had plugged into the electricity, so when the raid they hadent off, to stop. the power came back on and then one of the tunnels collapsed. at 5:00 in the morning, they had gotten 76 of those 100 men out.
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the 77th one was caught. the men who got out all ran into the forest. they thought they would be able to find their way to the rail station with all of their papers. it was not as easy as they thought. there was also quite a bit of snow left so traveling was difficult. all but three of them were caught, rounded up within two weeks. the germans executed 50 of those 76 within two weeks. the three who made it back to their homelands were norwegian pilots and one dutch pilot. some of you know this story from "the great escape." it was a pretty fictionalized account, but an entertaining one nonetheless. you mentioned the cooler king. i'm glad you did. this is the character steve mcqueen was based on. he was known as the cooler king because he was captured and escaped several times. he was the basis for steve mcqueen's her.
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-- character. he was a native texan who had volunteered for the royal canadian air force in june of 19 -- he had gone to britain. 1940. he was first shot down on a mission in france. he was one of the most heavily punished prisoners in world war ii, spending over six months in solitary confinement. his first stint came after a prank against the german guards. the guards were trying to count the prisoners, as they often did, and several men started milling around. if you have ever tried to count kindergartners come you can imagine -- it is very similar. the guards did not find it as funny. he ended up in the cooler. that was his first experience in the cooler. then he tried to escape. he was caught hiding in the shower room. he got two weeks in the cooler for that. the camp became overcrowded. he was sent to another camp to -- about 150 miles to the northeast in poland.
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about the day he got there, he tried to escape again. rolledunloading a train, under the train, got to the other side and ran, and they caught him, put him in the cooler again for a couple of weeks. during this time he had secured a small file and was trying to get out of his cell when they caught him the second time. another two weeks for that. you kind of ca pattern here with william ash. he gets out of the cooler and he tries to cut through the fence with wire cutters. that time, he did not get caught, but his compadres did. twohe also tunneled out, was caught. he spent 10 days in the cooler for that. he escaped from a camp in lithuania and was on the loose for a couple of weeks. again was caught. theytime, they said were going to execute him because he was problematic to keep in, but instead they sent him back to the stalag.
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about the time he was in the cooler that time was when the great escape took place. he could not participate, because he was in the cooler at the time. after the executed those 50 men, he decided his career was over as an escape artist. as i was researching him, i couldn't think -- help but think of all the hogans heroes i had grown up watching with the rivalry back and forth, but there were no charming colonel s in the real pow camps. as much fun as they were to watch on tv, that was not what was depicted. it was not as fun in real-life. david: if there was an award for the prisoner demonstrating the greatest amount of coolness under pressure, that would have to go to george crimson. he was a british operator on a british bomber.
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he was shot down july 15, 1940. they transported him back and forth to a number of prison camps. serial escape her, kind of like william ash. he learned to speak german well with little accent, but it was his confidence and bluster that with his greatest assets. he twice escaped prison by dressing as a german officer and walking out the front gates. both times, he was on a trade and headed north and attracted the attention of the gestapo, even though he was quickly sent back to the prison camps. his most daring escape came when he pretended to be a german electrician so he could get near the electrified fence. he disguised himself by wearing a blue jumpsuit, died his cap blue so he his cap
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would look like in your force man, and carried a leather belt with his tools. wires danglingth out, had a fake electrical meter, and fake identity papers hidden in his clothes. he started away from the camp. this is a depiction of staleg 3. a date.see, this is it is not the main gate, but prison --is is the the prisoner section for the allied prisoners were kept, but this is the german section of the camp, so this is where the guards slept. in order to get out of the prison, you would have to go through this main gate here from the prisoner section into the german section, and then write
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out the main gate here. this is your finally. objective. started back here, not close to the main gate so he wouldn't attract suspicion of the gate guards. he dressed up as electrician, walked the backend of the prison, and looks up at the watchtower and gets permission from the guard tower to start checking the fence. he's got this fake electrical meter, he's checking the barbed wire, the electrified fence. its a wonder that he didn't electrified himself -- electrocute himself, but they bought it. he begins working his way down the prison fence until he gets to the watchtower, right under the watchtower, right here. he's right beside the gate.
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please write under the watchtower, and wouldn't you know it, he accidentally drops his electrical meter on the other side of the fence. so he looks up at the watchtower and swears loudly, and the soldier in the guard tower kind of laughs at him. go ahead, go get it. he walks right out the main gate. he stops, picks up the electrical meter and keeps going. nobody questions him because he is obviously a german air force enlisted man. he takes off his jumpsuit and underneath, he's got a suit from the escape committee. so he is on the loose for a while, anyway. he lost his way onto a train headed for the baltic sea, and he attracts the attention of the train police or whoever it is, but he is rounded up, sent to another prison camp.
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after this escape attempt, he 6 inally is sent to stalag lithuania. so next, after this escape actually sent to luft six up here in lit wane yacht it's not too long try to e decides he'll escape again. what's interesting about stalag luft 6, it's a series or a who were prison guards susceptible to bribes. >> they have bought a number of papers so they can see exactly what the paperwork looks like to re-create. got grimson goes to the escape to ittee and says i want escape and they say that's good
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because we have a job for you. biggest problems specially as far away as who ania is, anybody escapes is almost certainly to be caught. what the committee asked grimson we want you to escape in the ant you to stay local area and work with the polish underground so when other them escape you can help on their way. agrees. and he's actually set up outside the prison working with the about underground for three months. and so, grimson just disappears. to himknows what happens and to this day no one is really sure. what happened is that the germans figured out guards were ison corrupted, and they were certainly arrested. hey would have been executed, but most likely those prison
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guards were tortured before they executed, and most likely george germans about grimson and his operations right outside of the prison walls. grimson actually helped three escape from six and made it all the way back to ngland but most likely the about grimson and he was executed although there is no record of it anywhere. so a great book about grimson is called "the sergeant escapers." actually about a number of different episodes but his story in there if you're interested. o the story about george grimson was one of bluff and courage. his next episode uses a lot of those same factors. this story is about a german one of the made
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longest escapes ever during world war ii. the prisoner that we're alking about is a german werr er pilot, franz von a he was shot down and taken prisoner within minutes of and interrogated for several weeks, and then transferred to a p.o.w. camp. werra is thing about that he spoke english very, very well. slight accent but he spoke english well. his first 7 he makes escape attempt. believe it or not the british take prisoners on long hikes in the countryside. you're in england, right? one side -- ntario it's a pain to try and try to prisoners.ese werra was one of those guys so these long nature
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start ome of his budtdies a fight to distract the guards, he was at large for about six before they finally track him down in some of the high mountain meadows where the sheep grazing. he was pretty hungry, and pretty really resistdn't he was arrested again. but werra was also a serial not the end hat's of our story. werra was at it again, ransferred to a tougher prison camp at swan wick, where werra nd four others proceeded to tunnel out of their barracks under the fencek even under the road next to the fence until out into some woods not too far away. four guys go their separate ways. werra is a pilot and he's got that he's going to
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sneak on to a royal air force base, steal a plane, and fly it back to germany. right?crazy, nobody ever excused werra of he g incredibly sane, so decides to give at this time old middle school try and so werra to an raf base so he follows the sounds of a train comes to a l he small railroad station. so he comes up to the clerk and bit of an accent, certainly he's not from around here, he tells the clerk that a dutch fighter pilot, he was shot down the night before, and i need to get to my base so the clerk is rather suspicious. e's listening to this story, i didn't hear anything about a down around hot here so he calls the police but is, as charming as he is courageous. within a few minutes he's kind down off of clerk the ledge and has convinced him
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that he really is a dutch pilot, and i've got oh get back to my base. base calls the local raf and they say, all right, we'll send a car. ell now you've got the police coming and the air force coming. so you can be sure we have rra s hoping the air force gets there first. but as luck would have it, it's the police. detectives show up and they start questioning werra. they are pretty suspicious as deter him.at doesn't that doesn't deter werra. charming and polite and as flattering as he possibly can pretty soon he's turned these two detectives. they believe him. so the air force is on your way, say? we'll stay here and just kind of chat with our allied fighter just kind of pass the time, right? o eventually, the air force does send a car to pick up werra and the police are waving. numbers or e
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addresses, i guess, and promise to stay in touch maybe. made that last part up. but you get the idea, right? old police usty detectives totally bought this story. to this 's -- he goes air force base, where he walks into the administration office says, yeah, i'm from this other base, and i would like to so i can get back to my unit. and the air force guys are not second.it for a they are like, wait, where are you from again? what did you say your name was? where were you shot down? no reports of any planes being shot down there. going to go ahead and call your unit and check up on you. nd so they are trying to get through, they pick up the phone, they are trying to get through, nd at this point we have rra simply stands up and he walks out of the office. he's going to look for plane and not too long until he bluessters his way through the
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guard gate. he goes an finds himself a sitting next lane to the runway. the imbs inside, looks at instruments and has no earthly idea how to start this thing. of the plane, walks --und, finds a mechanic, who this german air force officer finds a british mechanic to come how to start this british airplane. and he does it. the mechanic comes, well, here's you've got to do. you've got to turn this switch and flip that lever. all right. got it. i understand how to fly the plane. so we have rra is sitting there excited. freedom until om he realizes you can't just start this thing by pressing a button. to have an external power supply. would you mind going and getting one? so the mechanic leaves to go get this power supply to start up the airplane. away from nts freedom, he's, all he needs is o start the engine until he
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hears the words get out. he's been discovered. so he's arrested. he's transferred back to another camp, but that's not the story. our so werra is soon selected to go canada.ison camp in he's put on a ship for halifax, nova scotia. to canada.rs get they are loaded on trains for to the prison camp. and the guards believe that the escape proof because the windows have all frozen shut. january of 1941. of those h all prisoners crammed into this railroad car and each car has a ineffective and inefficient heater but it's got werra scraping on the window as persist at any timely as he does it's not long has opened up rra
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the window where everybody has assumed that this rail guard is proof. so werra's plan is, as soon as starts slowing down i'm going to jump so the train lows down, comes into a small station, and pretty soon it's starting back up again, so as the train pulls away from the werra lifts up the window, gets his buddies to give out he boost and he jumps and he falls into a snow bank that breaks his fall. that is circled, this inner section up here, that's where werra has jumped of the train. and you can see where i've placed on google maps this town in new york. it's about 30 miles between the jumps out of the plane and where he crosses over into the united states. he's pretty cold, as you can imagine. there is a newspaper article up shows he's bandaged
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and frost bitten ears, so it a couple of days. he's hoping that the st. lawrence river between canada frozen united states is over. it's not. he has to spend a few more hours. eventually oat but he gets across the river and into the united states. finds a road and just starts down the road until he ogdensburg, new york. thing he does, is turn himself in to local officials. he's charged with illegal entry into the united states. that, nobody n really knows what to do with him. is allowed to roam free. on the previous page there was an article about how this german p.o.w. is like seeing the sights n new york city and living it up. so, what he's not sure of is what the americans are going to do to him. back ey going to ship him to canada?
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he's not going to wait to find out. so remember, we're not at war yet, this is january of 1941. we're not at war until december. so german intelligence is operating in the united states rather freely so germ gets him to mexico. nce there he makes his way to buenos aires, or brazil, from brazil he catches an ocean liner spain. to spain he gets to italy, and then from italy he goes back to germany. so this is about april. about four him months to get back to germany. so upon his return in germany in adolph hitler awards him a pretty nice about . the knights cross of the iron cross. by july of 1941, hitler has the soviet union. werra is on the front lines with unit.r force it's a couple of months later that he's transferred back to germany. his squadron gets brand-new
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fighters, so they are testing holland, andout in o on october 25, 1941, werra takes off in his brand-new fighter, he's going to test it out over the atlantic. or whatever reason the engine seizes up and he's got to crash atlantic, and he's killed. he's a german, right? after all of that it's kind of a sad story. body is s, but his never recovered. a great book -- all about werra's exploits is called "the one that got away." written in 1957 and there was even a movie that was by the same 02 nam name. had confidence and charm and now we've got longevity. so henry giroux was a french
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soldier, and he was one of the served in both i and world war ii, and the only one i find that escaped. he was a captain in world war i captured during a battle in 1914. he spent a couple of months in captivity, he escaped and joined the circus and i'm not making up that. then he got the help of edith's network and if you of the work any about edith, fascinating her role in world war i. back to the netherlands and back to france. he was r 25 years later 61. he was a five-star general and he was fighting in france and he by the ured again germans. so during his long military career he had honed his xpertise in the german language. he spoke it very well. he also knew about their tactics quite well. surprised when they
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a k him to a p.o.w. camp on cliff space with guarded entrances. they had a pretty good idea that the fellow. they didn't think he would be able to escape so for two years for ways to escape. he kept learning his german, he stole a the area, he map but he was also an officer and being an officer he had certain privileges that other so he was allowed to get packages from his wife. all the t rope, and other things that he needed. [laughter] > it took him two years but he did. and he also got go on daily walk. in englandned, being and going on walks. he was allowed that privilege as well because of his rank. on april 17, 1942, he climbed 150-foot cliff face and escaped. climbing down 15 stories is quite a feat but he was 63. it to the cliff base, shaved his mustache and put on a
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hat and raincoat and basically from the camp. his escape consisted of two parts. first he met a young man who had and clothing for him. his wife had arranged this in a d meeting. was trickier. he bluffed his way through various checkpoints. border into e occupied france so he made it through those checkpoints, even though the guards were supposed stop anyone over 5'11", henry tall in.oot 1914 he sent a telegram to his wife upon his escape and shent telegram on his second escape. business concluded. stop. excellent health. stop. affectionately-ry. this is probably the hardest story for me to tell just because it was so moving when i researching it.
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one of the most extensive escapes in r camp world war ii happened in october death campsof three in poland. located near the eastern part of poland. ot many survived because they tried to erase the history of what happened there. andpened mtd spring of 1942 built expressly for the purpose of killing jews. the area was remote and the land not good but did it have a rail line. load rrived by the train usually 10 box cars at a time and ing about 2,000 people every jew sent to sobibor was hours. within 24 those arriving were a taken to a transfer station, their and bles taken from them their hair was cut before they were sent to the showers and as know they were the gas chambers. some jews were retained to work nd those who worked knew what they were involved in and this caused them great distress.
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they had to clean up the remains train load was gassed, they had to bury the graves.n the mass the jewish workers were expected to herd these people through the the camp, and to their deaths, and they were told not to speak out. while there was some knowledge about this that reached people in london and washington leaders did not intervene. by the spring of 1943, most jews were dead. in the summer of 1943, the dutch and killed.ought in and by september 1943, there trains arriving there. the workers who were still there ere pretty worried about when they were going to be next. in late september 1943, the and among s arrived that group sasha. within the area were focused on when the camp was going to close and when that remaining at all the
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jews would be killed. o sar shah and the others had to act quickly. within 20 days they made a plan. there were still about 600 at the camp at that time. on october 14, 1943, about 300 win of escaped making it the largest escapes during world war ii. sasha and others on the killed 11 german powers, overpowered the guards. they planned to just walk out it turned into a very chaotic event that night. some of the escapees were called away but many others were helped by farmers including sasah who lived for several months in a farmer's barn. not were shot. within days they ordered the camp taken down because they did not want the world to see what they were doing. pproximately 250,000 people were murdered at the camp. many of those who escaped at sobibor including sasha spoke
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widely about his experience at passed away not too long ago. we had not originally planned to today but auschwitz yesterday was the 75th anniversary of the liberation we so it seems fitting that talk about this and particularly this the escapes from camp. so at the height of the concentration camp operations in 944 the germans were executing about 12,000 people per day but hardly anyone outside the camp on. what was going so two young men would eventually make their escape and tell the world what was auschwitz and other concentration camps. he was 17 when september to auschwitz. he believed that if he could get the truth out about the camps getting le would stop on trains and stop believing what they were being told. he was determined to tell people what was going on in auschwitz.
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e turned to a 25-year-old man named alfred for help. wechsler was from the same town lovakia.lack he got him a new job, a job in the office where he was writing down the names of the people who were sent through the showers. those access to all of german records, all of the prisoners that were killed and he also had the determination to escape. so in 1944, the man, who was now wechsler, who was 27, hid inside the hollow of a wood pile themselves with gas soaked tobacco leaves so the dogs wouldn't find them. past ey knew from experience that it would only take three days before the guards quit looking for them so waited for three days in that wood pile, then they walked 15 days through 85 miles of slovakianoland to the border and arrive at the jewish
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headquarters. they knew that the concentration camps were bad but they had no going on.e atrocities in fact, they were so sunday by their stories they weren't sure they could believe them. wasn't until he started reciting the names of hundreds of exterminated jews, names of had written down in those books while working notice finally hat they believed them. burba and wechsler had knowledge of conditions that would only be been to somebody who had there. soon afterwards the papers around the world picked up these of the report written by the two men and they vowed to was happening t auschwitz was fulfilled. our last episode of the the prison ut rescue. this episode is unique in that t's actually a rescue, not an escape and it takes place in the
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pacific theater. are taking many prisoners of war through the attles of the pacific, but by 1944, they are losing the war and they are losing territory, fear that many of the prisoners that they had taken would be liberated by the armies, so llied japanese officials gave orders that no prisoner is ever to be allies.the they should be executed first. allied cember of 1944, forces are approaching a apanese prison camp in the philippines, when the japanese realize how close the allies 150 allied ok prisoners and put them in a gasoline in there, set it on fire and then folks who were trying to jump out, would be shot. now 11 out of the 150 actually ditch into of the the woods and were able to relate this story once they were ehind friendly lines, which gave more impetus to the idea of
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liberating these prison camps allies got too close. so the next japanese prison camp to be massacred -- prisoners at the kaban prison camp, also in the philippines where over 500 allied prisoners were being held. american and filipino soldiers were veterans of the caban death march and were in rough shape making this rescue all the more problematic. also, the idea that the prison camp was about 30 miles behind lines only added to the complexity of this problem. of the nies c and f sixth ranger battalion under the of lieutenant colonel henry mucci were tasked with to liberate the camp. 125 rangers left their encampment, and on the way they alamo up philippine scouts and guerrilla fighters
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until their numbers reached 450 soldiers altogether. so the plan called for charlie at the front up of the camp and fox trot company behind the camp and the signal for the start of the attack was when fox trot company was in place. would initiate the attack. and so as you can imagine, the prisoners were pretty confused. going on, are we all being executed? reined.on rein about 30 anyone's from start to finish, from the start minutes tack until 30 later all 513 allied prisoners outside the camp and on their way back to friendly lines. s i told you, a whole lot of these folks are in pretty rough fighters,the guerrilla alamo scouts, had coordinated
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with local villagers to come to get these folks out of the prison camps and back friendly lines. many of the philippine villagers, brought their water buffalo hooked up to carts and for those prisoners who couldn't they had a ride 30 miles back many of the to friendly li. so it took almost a week with folks who were in pretty ough shape to get everybody back but they d. all 513, and getting out a week of back to friendly lines the american soldiers were put on back home.ere headed so probably the best, the best read on this is soldiers."ost it's a great book. it goes into a whole lot more detail if you're interested. andsoldiers." up, thoughts?wrap
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>> always, i always have thoughts. a really privilege to work on these stories and to research. i'm a student of history. professor of history. i'm the writer and the editor, really, really encouraging for me to read all of these wonderful stories of each other but the hardest part for me was all the people who didn't make it out. yeah. i would agree. really rewarding experience to read about the ordinary people and other y people helping ordinary people. so maybe we can go forward and try and exercise that a little in our own lives. o -- we have a couple more presentations coming up in the next six months. world war ii s exhibit, or series. you can see, we're going to talk what's ro jimma -- hey,
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that about the occupation of germany? back.e i'll be back. you u're interested and if can make it, june 9, shouldn't be a lot of problems with snow it is kansas. you never know. nd then my boss, i would be remiss if i didn't managers my oss is coming, to talk about nimitz and mcarthur. with that, we have a couple of being ones that are placed up here in the aisles. anybody has f questions to come up to the microphones and feel free to ask. will, at that point, most ikely turn it over to my coauthor, to try and answer your questions. [applause]
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>> you can appreciate multiple of ce questions as teachers history. choose one. -- [inaudible] another question, if you have patton's raid,ut and the third one was anything the one glas bader and legged man's escape. any of those three would be great. thank you very much. what was the first one? >> -- [inaudible] about how one got a ticket. frequently.scaped thought it was supposed to be the highest security german camp. [inaudible] >> there is a great story in about that. not the one that i studied for tonight. ticket, you could earn a to get in, which was similar, very difficult physical place to and out of.
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so they still managed to escape rom there which was pretty incredible, and actually, it was a number of people if i remember orrectly, yes, you did get a ticket to there. they tried to move those pesky where they places would stay put. >> thank you so much. fascinating.utely really appreciated. i write for american greatness and the federalist and i just one question. when i was going to the university of kansas i heard a story that the chapel at the was rsity of kansas actually constructed by german during, i think world war ii. they were transported here and i heard dering, have you any stories of any shenanigans of war who isoners came to america or were held in me, either escaping or stirring over here? >> actually, i have not heard a prisoners ies about creating lot of problems. in fact, most prisoners had a good idea of what life was like back home.
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at the end of world war ii, and by, by the last year of world is ii, the soviet union overrunning russia and ukraine. that's the bread basket of europe. that food had been cut off. nd so in order for a german prisoner of war, in the united states, and there were hundreds f thousands of them, all over the united states, those prisoners of war were generally farms.g on they got to eat pretty well. so most of them were pretty be working on farms. hey would literally go live ith farm families,&do the work every day, and so, that is an area that's wide open for a lot more research. what sit that prisoners were doing? it wouldn't surprise me that that you that chapel were talking about, i just don't know for sure if they did. all hey were engaged in
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kinds of work, at a pretty reasonable price. if a farmer wanted to hire a german p.o.w., i think it cost day, if the s a government was going to feed them, or a farmer could simply what he had on hand. have some thoughts? > not necessarily related to that, but i have been doing some work on minnesota history there but the dakota wars and after the mankato, especially the dakota men were sent to davenport, iowa, and they didn't try to escape because of the threat of what would happen to heir families which were on a reservation in south dakota. so there were some other things that played out other than just to escape but again they were working and food was good and the promise was that their of as s were taken care long as they would stay put. topic, if you hat go to fort robinson, nebraska, panhandle, there was an army cavalry remount
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a huge nd -- it was p.o.w. camp and they put on plays there. place to go esting to. the other thing is, if you're on 6 in central nebraska near the pioneer village, i'm sure there, there is a historical sign, i'm one of these guys, my kids will laugh on the brakes, historical marker. a big p.o.w. camp. mostly african p.o.w.'s working farms. not too bad. say, thei was going to great escape," i fictionalized, he was at a german home and he's eating nag british way, a fork in his left hand, poking the meat, carving the meat with right hand. that's how my grandparents who
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were english would eat. eat that. i tend to gave him away. so you had to think about stuff like that even if you spoke to act german you had like a brit. interesting. thank you. > i want to thank you, most of all, for putting a german prisoner of war camps in the concentration th camps. that's usually dealt with think it's nd i important to know the difference. you're in a mind if p.o.w. p.o.w. camp, a p.o.w., it's the gestapong to be who pursues you and takes you into custody. question.gs me to my if you're a p.o.w. camp and you're being treated halfway reasonably well, i'm not going say it was good but it was the inly better than
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philippines, if you're in luft wafa personnel, humane and onably you're going to be liberated anyway because we're winning the obvious, if 's you're in a p.o.w. camp and you're being treated reasonably well, and if you escape you're going to have the ss after you, sodi -- isn'te at a case to be made that it would been better for them to sit tight and wait to be liberated. >> no, you're absolutely right, folksis why the number of who even attempted an escape is than 1%. most people were perfectly happy wait out the war. you're taking your life into your own hands by trying to escape. point.e an excellent >> thank you. those two or putting things together.
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>> i have a question, also a the german ut prisoners of war here. very good friend whose ather was an ss officer, and was imprisoned in, i believe it was kansas. loved the united states so much, that as soon as he he brought his family to the united states and my friend, deeter, and the whole n family became wonderful u.s. citizens following the war. my question is this. escapists, considering the other, some of things that rible were s did to people, why they allowed to be put back into the cooler, and then back in the then back in the cooler again, i mean, were
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of -- was it kind entertaining or did they in a them, grudgingly respect or why didn't they just get rid they were cause always a problem? part of it was they were prisoners of war. you weren't supposed to execute that. changed the game with the great escape. hey shot 50 of them and they came back but part of it was humane treatment. sure they were annoyed. maybe entertained. i don't know. >> thank you. five -- make these the last five. >> okay. >> i have a follow up for the entleman that was in front of me. where he talked about why you would escape. of course, you no doubt know author, who wrote churchill and his escape. did that kind of lend this kind romance? obviously, his story, being a
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there,ournalist, was out his rise in fame, did that affect, when you did your that affect the mindset of some of these prisoners? >> are you talking about winston churchill? >> churchill -- it's n churchill escapes something, as i recall. >> no. war.e buller >> and so, yes, so winston churchill -- there is a local artist, local author, miller. we include that. and the episode of winston churchill in our book as well. winston churchill escapes. e has to walk essentially across the desert and he's nearly killed a number of times he's a politician, right? and a writer and a prolific so yeah, who is he going
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to write about but himself? great way to a gain publicity, and there are those who, you know, one of the how he gets, that's into politics, by playing this veteran's card and this hero card, to its maximum, and it well for him, yeah. >> yes, sir? > how did you go about identifying the sources for all of the research that you did, that w did you pull together? was from it military sources or sources?lian >> yes. [laughter] very fortunate with today's access to military records. certainly that provided us ccess to things we couldn't just normally get. so that was wonderful. f course, looking at as many primary sources we. -- primary sources as we could.
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>> this was a pretty big project. 77 different episodes in the book each one of which had researched.dually so we relied a whole lot on secondary sources as well. could find a book where somebody had written it and here were some that we found some military records, but, we would have been forever trying archives he national and research it that way, so largely, a lot of these, we had three or four, five different sources for each episode that we looked at to liningre that things are up. so we can make it as accurate as we could. know, the sources came from all over, yeah. >> yes, ma'am? just want to say that 75 ago, my day, 75 years fiv, as captured near st. belgium, a month and a half after the battle of the bulge had been in and he was
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dzingel l log 9-b t's a children's camp now and the buildings were some of the same, barracks looking buildings and on the outside of the camp historical marker saying this had been stalag 9-b were some graves inside and so on. 2017, we were taking our and, at dren there, that time, we knew where the camp had been. we passed it, though, because it totally different. kind of s a very, elegant school where people would come in to study certain things or something. and their attitudes toward us,
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asking any questions just to be sure that's where it was, they brushed me off, didn't want to talk to me, so i wondered, when was the transition in germany where they are now trying to kind of, you mean, i can understand it's a long time since the war not a proud ably history of those camps but when --y started >> the history, in germany, in pretty r ii, is problematic. german officers at the who have to be very careful about some of the things that they say in class. we take a number of students who have to be and we do a joint staff -- american students and german students and we go alk about the battle of the bulge, right? but they have to be very careful about some of the things that study, some of the things that they say because the people, the government, culture very cognizant of the nazi
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past, and how problematic that is. doesn't surprise me that they are not kind of amplifying that whole thing. just letting it go. your story, yeah. thank you. >> yes, sir? you.ank >> very nice presentation. wonderful. reminded in this last week and as we've been of the people e speaking of the jewish reminded we're also that the nazis killed probably roma, million omosexuals, lots of different sob was one of the worst if not the worst. did you run into any other
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groups at that site when it happened? >> mostly russia at the time of that last escape. volume that went through there was drove whelming research. politicalere a lot of prisoners early on. hungarians, romanians, different ethnic groups were showing up at the same time but is, i don't have it on my list here, but dave cotler be talking about the holocaust in a little more depth. he's going to give a class the persistent holocaust which is even after the war was persecution as against the jews and a number sort of ed and that thing, it was must be who didn't and who was eich deemed unworthy.
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communists, british, italies, if ou opposed the regime, you would probably end up in a concentration camp. ended up in concentration camps. nything not completely supportive of the third reich and its goals was probably going o end up in a prison camp somewhere. >> yes, sir? > what could possibly be the advantage of prison guards taking a bribe like that in nazi germany? hat exactly would they bribe them with? money? >> food. >> what could they get out of it? red cross of packages largely. so there was -- > very dangerous, wouldn't bit very dangerous? >> absolutely. >> human nature. >> yeah. guardsor the guards, the were, i don't have a lot of information about what happened them other than that the best speculation is, when they were arrested, and they were tortured that's heir execution, when they probably gave up
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george grimson. in passing, we know the scheme was uncovered and punished. were >> thank you. >> yes, sir. [applause] *- *- [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> you're watching american history v covering c-span file with event coverage, archival accounts, films, lectures in college classrooms and visits to museums places, all on end, every weekend,
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c-span 3. >> you can watch archival films on public affairs each week on series "reel america." and day at 10:00 p.m. sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv. one of quick look at our recent programs. conclusion of the first part of the conference, with much of the work already surrounded byhree the chiefs of staff, with their taffs and civilian officials, posed for the cameras in the
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patio of the palace. picture.ble the three leaders with their ighest state ministers behind them. the conference proceeded as the three heads of state and their work of t on with the coming to an agreement of the many problems involved. after eight days, the conference ended. the big three released their statement. substantial agreement was reached. regular conferences of the united nations would be held. first in san francisco, 25, 1945. april the long journey from washington had been rewarded and mr. had won for his country renewed faith in a permanent peace. he president arrived in 28th of on on the february. 37 days. days which would leave their imprint on history. istory which franklin eleanor roosevelt which he made and
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bequeathed, as his last message congress and the american people. crimea e from the conference with a firm belief that we have made a good start to a world of peace. have the major allies been more closely united, their war aims but aims.in their peace and they are determined to continue to be united, to be other, and withh peace-loving nations so the dea of lasting peace will become a reality. long ce can exist only so as humanity insists upon it and is willing to work for it and for it.e 25 years ago, american fighting statesmen of the the world to finish the work of
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for which they fought and suffered. we failed them. failed them. we cannot fail them again and world to survive again. >> i'm confident that congress and the american people will the results of this at the beginning -- we can begin to build nder god that better world in which our children and mine, hildren, yours and grandchildren d of the whole world must live and can live. >> you can watch archival films on public affairs in their entirety on our weekly series

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